Zaire Table of Contents
In the early postindependence days, the new nation was beset by regional and tribal factionalism, tremendous violence, chaos, and repression. After Mobutu's 1965 coup d'état, this unstable situation provided an excuse for the steady growth and entrenchment of Mobutu's personal authority. Yet in spite of the buildup of a massive, centrally controlled internal security apparatus, political and social dissent persisted. Moreover, this apparatus was itself responsible for exacerbating much of the public disorder that characterized modern Zaire.
As of 1993, no official statistics on crime had been published since 1959. Although general law and order and supremacy of central authority were largely restored under Mobutu, the incidence of crimes against persons has been consistently high, especially when general economic conditions deteriorate. Theft, robbery, murder, and rape have become increasingly common in and around the country's urban centers and along its main transportation routes, making travel dangerous. The police and security forces themselves commit many of these acts and frequently participate in armed banditry. Furthermore, both their ability and desire to protect the citizenry from common criminals are slight. In the early 1990s, crime was described as endemic in many areas of the country, including Kinshasa and both Nord-Kivu and Shaba, where ethnic violence was widespread.
Prior to the 1990s, public protest and civil unrest occurred periodically, although the events were usually localized and were on nowhere near the scale of 1960-65 (see Opposition to the Regime prior to 1990 , ch. 4). The roots of such activity lay typically in economic hardships but were also sometimes sparked by overzealousness or impropriety on the part of the security forces. The regime's response was usually harsh and violent in discouraging more widespread protest. University students and teachers were among the more frequent demonstrators. In February 1989, for example, students in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi went on strike to protest IMF-inspired austerity measures and inadequate and costly transportation. The universities were temporarily closed and army units quickly sent in to quell the disturbances. In the process, several students were killed and others wounded. However, the episode was brought to an effective close only after President Mobutu had agreed to reduce the students' bus fares and had announced the initiation of court martial proceedings against the officers and troops responsible for the killing. In May 1990, students at Lubumbashi were killed by the DSP in an action widely characterized as a massacre.
Political resistance to the one-party regime was also accompanied by sporadic guerrilla activity. Guerrilla resistance centered on the activities of several insurgent groups. For example, on November 12, 1984, some 200 rebels belonging to the People's Revolutionary Party (Parti Révolutionnaire du Peuple-- PRP), a force that had operated for years in the rugged mountains near Lake Tanganyika, temporarily seized and occupied Moba, a town on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Elements of the 31st Airborne Brigade recaptured the town two days later. Again in 1985, the PRP briefly occupied Moba on June 17, but its forces were quickly dislodged. Although Moba possessed no strategic importance, its capture had significant psychological importance. It demonstrated that the Zairian government was still unable to exercise effective control over portions of the country. Even more important, the Moba incidents vividly demonstrated the incompetence of the front-line Zairian units stationed in the interior, notwithstanding the 31st Airborne Brigade's recapture of the town. The PRP was officially registered as an opposition party in late 1990.
Another organization, the Congolese Liberation Party (Parti de Libération Congolaise--PLC), also officially registered in late 1990, operated in northern Zaire during the mid-1980s. The PLC, formed in 1984 with the stated purpose of toppling the Zairian government, operated primarily out of bases in the Ruwenzori Mountains along the Zaire-Uganda border. It staged numerous attacks on towns, government forces, and installations along the Zairian side of the border. Although the PLC was unable to take and hold any terrain and posed no serious threat to the Kinshasa regime, the rebels demonstrated the government's lack of control of this area.
In the ostensibly multiparty era of the Third Republic in the early 1990s, opposition activity proliferated. The creation of political parties was tolerated for the most part (except for blatantly ethnic groupings), but military and security forces continued to suppress demonstrations, often with violent results.
Data as of December 1993
Zaire Table of Contents